Some ways to identify a garden plant is by its particular characteristics, such as its USDA hardiness zone, plant type, light requirements, height and any other special features. Plant types can include perennial, annual, biennial, tree, fern, grass, flower, shrub, succulent, herb, vine and ground cover. By noticing these characteristics, the plant can then be identified by using an online plant finder offered by many gardening websites.
When an unknown plant is observed growing in a garden or outdoors, take note of its different features. For example, an unknown flower type can bloom at a specific time of year, have a certain foliage type, have a specific aroma and grow in a moist zone.
With this information, use a plant finder, such as the one provided by the National Gardening Association, to search for a variety of plant features, including its shape, soil requirement and flower color. For example, searching for a fern plant type, which requires partial sunlight and moist conditions, grows in hardiness zone 6 and has a height that ranges from 6 to 12 inches, gives a result of two possible plants, which are the Japanese silver painted and the ghost lady fern. Pictures and complete plant profiles are provided for each plant.
The HGTV and Dave's Garden websites are other online resources that offer plant-finder tools. Dave's Garden has a very extensive plant database that is searchable by many different plant features and characteristics.